Jason Tate’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

I don’t know how historians will write about 2020, but there’s a good chance future generations just flat out don’t believe the truth. I just lived through it and can barely believe everything that happened over the last twelve months. I know one day in the future, I’ll be scrolling through my phone and will come upon photos of my wife and I in masks and be like, “Oh, yeah, remember that whole thing?” It’s virtually impossible for me to wrap my head around this past year and everything that’s happened. So, deep breath, let’s put the head down and keep powering through.

The staff compiled best of 2020 list can be found here.

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Garrett Lemons’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

I wanted to call this piece, “On The Surprise Joy of Raising Chickens and the Importance of the Small Things,” but that would really bury the lede that this is an End of the Year celebration list. Because, somehow, in the myriad of catastrophes, pandemics, elections, family feuds, break-ups, loss of friendships, and everything in between, 2020 still managed to deliver some immensely great music.

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Adam Grundy’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

What a year, huh? Luckily for us, the music that came out of this hellish year was nothing short of remarkable. From the exponential growth of female artists taking the lead in 2020, to some interesting emo and pop-punk bands making their landmark artistic statements with their latest albums, this year had a little bit of everything. Also, being the shameless self-promoter, I hyperlinked to the reviews I contributed to this site this year. These are the 30 albums that I enjoyed the most over the course of this year.

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Brett Bodner’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

Good riddance 2020. We’re finally saying good-bye to one of the worst years on record and are hoping for a much better 2021. While 2020 was a turd wrapped in burnt hair, it did give us some fantastic music for our ears and souls to enjoy over these many months spent social distancing. Phoebe Bridgers’ blessed us with Punisher, her highly anticipated follow-up to Stranger in the Alps, and a few EPs to help end the year right. This was also the year Taylor Swift’s music won me over for the first time in my life thanks to her two impressive albums folklore and evermore. We also got a killer Spanish Love Songs album to start the year, Touche Amore somehow found a way to follow up Stage Four with their epic new record Lament, a long awaited new full length from The Front Bottoms and a powerful debut solo album from Hayley Williams. I could go on-and-on with all the new music I enjoyed this year, but it’s best I let the records on my list below speak for themselves.

This was my first year writing for Chorus and it’s been such an honor writing alongside everyone on the website. Through contributors here, I discovered artists I probably wouldn’t have given a chance or found on my own, but I’m glad I did. The result of all these discoveries is what’s probably my most diverse end-of-year album list yet. I never thought I’d have pop records from Taylor Swift or Dua Lipa on my list, but here we are. I’m excited for the new music to come in 2021 and to continue to write about it here at Chorus.fm.

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Mary Varvaris’s Best Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

2020, the year that was: I have stared at numerous blank documents, attempting to summarize how music shaped a truly terrible, often traumatic period in our lives. In 2019, we could have never imagined that by March 2020, life as we knew it would change irrevocably due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We said goodbye to movie theaters, concert halls, cafes and restaurants, wedding receptions; anniversaries, birthdays, and further celebrations. We said goodbye to travel and to see our loved ones on the regular. We had no choice but to adapt – we said hello to virtual meetings on Zoom, frequent takeaway meals, taking up baking and meditation, and live-streamed concerts, with a welcoming embrace. We binge-watched The Queen’s Gambit. For MasterChef Australia viewers, we were treated to the best season yet, thanks to a new round of judges and familiar favorites as the contestants. And, my god, some of the food was simply to-die-for.

It was the little things that kept me going in the year that was – finding comfort in being at home and bonding further with my family and my beautiful Labrador x Kelpie, Dane (I acknowledge my privilege here, I lost work for four months but as I live at home with my family, I never went without anything. Millions of Australians and millions more around the globe can’t say the same, and that’s a ringing indictment on lack of leadership), Netflix and other streaming services, reading magazines, doom-scrolling Twitter (yep, seriously), and of course, music.

It’s difficult to explain why the albums I have chosen as my favorite albums of the year have been ranked where they are, stayed with me for months or weeks, or overshadowed equally great releases. I found myself drawn to more guitar-based music than I have in years – rock music was a safety blanket in 2020, after all, it’s music that I have known and loved since childhood – and that’s OK. Here’s hoping that while I don’t hold much optimism for the year that’s just beginning, that a) 2021 is better than I expect, and b) that we all get to attend some concerts this year. Here are my personal favorite albums of 2020:

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Aaron Mook’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

I think this is the first year since 2017 I’ve written a blog to accompany my list on the site. It’s discouraging when your work starts to suck the energy out of the things you love to do; I am thankful to write for a living, but unsure of where that leaves me when I only feel inspired to review one or two albums a year. Regardless, I feel fortunate for the opportunity to continue contributing to the site, both as a moderator, an occasional writer, and a loathed poster. (I kid, probably.)

It feels like every year after 2015, these wrap-ups have started with a sentiment like “What’s left to say about 2017? It sucked!” And to be honest, I don’t have much insight to offer regarding 2020. It was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad, fucked-up year for a lot of reasons, and I’m not here to say it was any worse for me than it was for other people. All I can say is that it’s years like this that make you extremely grateful to have a community that loves art and discussing art as much as you do. Thank you for that.

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Craig Manning’s Top Albums of 2020

I never thought I’d need music again like I did in 2020.

I spent big chunks of 2018 and 2019 sorting back through records that had been formative in my life, first from the 2000s and then the 2010s. If anything, those processes showed me that the way I listened to music and connected with it had largely changed. And that made sense: the 2000s were the decade where I came of age, where I fell in the love with music for the first time, and where I went through the tumult of high school and all the joys and stumbles that path entails; the 2010s were my college years, the decade where I fell in love with my wife, where I saw my big youthful dreams die, where I saw another set of dreams sprout up to take their place, where I got married, and where I found my way toward contentment in my professional and personal life.

That kind of contentment is a gift, but it can also change the way you connect with art. When you’re young, you latch onto music in a primal way, because your emotions are heightened and every year brings so many milestones and so much change. Settling into the routine of adulthood affords fewer reasons to rely on an album like it’s a lifeline, or to listen to a song and feel like it might have just saved your life. Looking back at my year-end lists from the past two years, it’s clear to me that I was losing that visceral bond with the songs I thought I loved. While there are albums I adore on those lists, there are also many that don’t have any true relationship with beyond simple appreciation. 2020 was different. The world was a storm and I turned to music again as my raincoat, not unlike the way I used to in high school or college and facing a broken heart or a moment of crisis.

In recent days and weeks, as countless music fans across the internet have shared their “best of 2020” lists, I’ve read time and time again that folks “didn’t listen to much new music in 2020.” Maybe they felt they lacked the mental or emotional capacity to process anything else that was new and unfamiliar when our entire way of life suddenly seemed alien. Maybe people were just retreating to albums and songs they’d loved for years, taking solace in sounds that felt like old friends.

That wasn’t me: I spent the year putting out a call to the music world to give me something, anything that made me feel alive, or that spoke to the hope or grief or resilience or frustration I was feeling at any given moment. And the artists more than answered that call, delivering music that kept me afloat through it all, from the early days of the pandemic to a summer that never quite was, and from the jitters of election night through to the melancholy sadness that floated over the holiday season. It’s my favorite single-year slate of albums in at least half a decade – a list where I feel a more emotional connection with the LP at number 26 than I did with last year’s number 6. For the sake of the world and my own mental health, I hope I don’t have a reason to lean on music as much in 2021 as I did in 2020. But during a time when almost everything around me felt like it was falling apart, these albums gave me the hope and faith to keep going. I’ll never forget that.

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Trevor Graham’s Top Albums of 2020

Best of 2020

If you’re here, I’m gonna guess it’s not to read my ramblings about 2020. So let’s ignore the elephant in the room, yeah? No one invited it, anyway. This was definitely another superb year for music though, as always, and the artists that were there for us had every reason not to be. Ranking just 50 records hasn’t ever been so difficult for me to do — the top 35 or so I wish could all just be in my top 10. But alas, numbers.

Once upon a time, I did end of the year write ups similar to this where I wrote lengthy blurbs about each record in a very composed “review” kind of tone. But as the years went on, writing 50 mini-reviews felt kind of like a chore. As a result, 2018 and 2019 wound up just being lists. Sad. And what’s the point of just sharing a list of records if I’m not gonna say anything about them? So this year, I wrote a little bit about each record, but made a goal to keep it casual. Just typing off the cuff, a little bit about each selection — a few sentences on why I liked the record. Some more than others, but for no real reason. Parts of this might be a little repetitive (ctrl+F ‘jazzy’) or rambling, but hopefully it’s a little easier to digest for anyone that’s made it this far. It was certainly easier to throw together on my end. So without further ado, here are my top 50 records of 2020! Catch me in the forums with a hot take if you’ve got them!

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The Most Successful “Scene” Records Over the Past Three Decades

The commercial appeal of emo and punk records is undeniable. In this article, I dove into the most commercially successful albums of the past three decades in our scene. First, I wanted to provide a couple of quick notes about how I pulled this data. I took a look at the most popular pop-punk and emo albums from a Wikipedia article and cross-referenced it with other bands that I knew would be in the vicinity of receiving a Gold (500,000 albums sold) or Platinum (1 million albums sold) RIAA certification. From there, I used the Wikipedia articles on the individual album pages to see if they mentioned any certifications of Gold or above. I then confirmed those totals on the extremely helpful RIAA website. In some cases, I either rounded up or down on the number of albums sold to make the organizing of this list a little bit easier to follow, and these totals are for US sales only. I have organized this list into the three different decades of the 90’s, 00’s and 10’s, and I found it interesting that the vast number of eligible albums occurred during the 00’s era. I hope that you will find this information as enlightening as I did, and there are plenty of surprises to be found in these lists as well.

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My iOS 14 Home Screen

Jason's iPhone 11

I like keeping screenshots and documenting my iOS home screens over the years so I can look back on how I had everything set up and remembering what it was like. The release of iOS 14 brings even more customizable options with the new widgets and stacks. I decided to describe my current layout, my custom iOS 14 icons, and add a little commentary about the apps.

UPDATE • Oct 23, 2020

I’ve made some changes, notably changing up how all my custom icons look. All the screen shots have been updated.

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GoodReads Sucks


Sarah Manavis, writing at New Statesman:

With the vast amount of books and user data that Goodreads holds, it has the potential to create an algorithm so exact that it would be unstoppable, and it is hard to imagine anyone objecting to their data being used for such a purpose. Instead, it has stagnated: Amazon holds on to an effective monopoly on the discussion of new books – Goodreads is almost 40 times the size of the next biggest community, LibraryThing, which is also 40 per cent owned by Amazon – and it appears to be doing very little with it.

GoodReads is a really bad website and an even worse app. It could be awesome. It should be awesome. The difference between using it, and say Letterboxd for movies, is night and day. It just makes me sad.

Mending Broken History


In April of 2016, we said goodbye to AbsolutePunk and launched Chorus. Saying goodbye to something that was such a massive part of my life was difficult, but also absolutely necessary. The following years have allowed me a freedom and release from the mental weight of that website that I find hard to put into words. The only minor regret I have, from time to time, is that so much of the history of the music scene was lost. But whereas I am very glad many threads, comment sections, and horrific posts are forever scrubbed from the internet, there is a part of me that misses the content and historical record of big events, certain album releases, and old interviews with bands that have been forgotten to time.

In order to keep some of the scene’s musical history alive, we’ve republished some of the old AbsolutePunk content here on Chorus and will continue to bring over various articles we think are historically relevant. We’ve also added a new visual banner on this content to better signify that it was once on AbsolutePunk and to link to this post, explaining as such.

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Mary Varvaris’s Top Albums of 2020 (So Far)

Best of 2020 (So Far)

2020 has been shit. Not good shit, not the shit; but a royal shit show. In Australia, the number of people suffering from COVID-19 have been low in comparison to the horrific amount of deaths overseas. For that, we are resoundingly lucky. That doesn’t mean we’re immune to the conspiracy theories (“the 5G towers are causing COVID-19!”), or apathy. Individualism over collectivism in western society has proven itself to be a curse. If only we all cared about the most vulnerable people in our communities some more. If we did, perhaps we wouldn’t still be in this shit.

All of that said, 2020 has had a saving grace: Music. As always, music remains my lifeline, my inspiration, and brings some excitement to everyday life. The Aussies have been on fire, with legends like Gordi, The McClymonts and Hayley Mary (of The Jezabels) proving they’re here to stay for good. Newcomers Nat Vazer and Miiesha make me miss intimate gigs so much. This year, we have also witnessed some of the most stunning comeback albums ever. There’s Fiona Apple returning after eight long years with Fetch the Bolt Cutters, an album that’s a complete outlier within her discography but still uniquely her. Hum also returned after 22 years (!) with Inlet, an epic album that delivers on the riffs and soundtracks the apocalypse.

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